Friday, October 29, 2010

In the news: Legislation for “Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment at the Workplace” soon

Here's the text of a speech made by the Minister of State for Women and Child Development (Independent Charge) Smt. Krishna Tirath at the Meeting of State Secretaries held recently. You can link to it here.

A two-day meeting of the State Secretaries in charge of Women and Child Development was inaugurated in New Delhi today by Minister of State for Women and Child Development (Independent Charge) Smt. Krishna Tirath. The meeting has been convened to review the progress in implementation of Central schemes of the Ministry and to roll out the two new schemes recently approved by the Cabinet.

Following is the text of the Speech of Minister of State for Women and Child Development (Independent Charge) Smt. Krishna Tirath at the meeting of State Secretaries:

“Secretary, Women and Child development, Shri D. K. Sikri, State Secretaries and Officers from State Governments, Officers from the Ministry of Women and Child Development, organizations affiliated to our Ministry, and other esteemed guests and dear friends…

First of all, I welcome you all to this meeting. We have assembled here today to discuss a number of important issues. I am especially thankful that all of you are here to attend this meeting despite your busy schedule. As you all know, our work at the Centre and in the States for women and children is a shared responsibility, which requires the highest degree of commitment, collaboration and transparency from all of us. The services provided by us must reach the unserved and underserved and all those targeted under the Schemes and programmes of the Government. I look to each one of you to collectively work towards achieving the mandate of ensuring overall survival, development, protection and participation of women and children of the country.

Since our last meeting in June with the State Ministers and all of you there has been considerable movement forward. It gives me great pleasure to share these with you.

At the outset, it is a source of hope and pride for me to state that the Cabinet has given approval two very important Schemes of the Ministry - the ‘Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls – ‘SABLA’ and the ‘Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana’ (IGMSY in short). The States, having been a part of the consultative process in formulation of the schemes, have been enthusiastically looking forward to their launch and it gives me great pleasure to share this moment with you.

Both these schemes cater to two very vulnerable groups amongst both women and children, namely, adolescent girls and pregnant working women. Whereas SABLA aims to address the needs of adolescent girls in the age group of 11-18 years, the IGMSY looks to secure social protection for pregnant working women by providing part compensation of wage losses incurred due to pregnancy and post delivery circumstances.

SABLA has been approved for implementation in 200 districts; to begin with on a pilot basis. It is being launched on 19th November, 2010 in the country. Expansion of this scheme in the 12th Plan period would depend mainly on its successful implementation in the pilot phase. Keeping in mind the vulnerable age group that it caters to, I urge you to give this Scheme the highest attention it deserves at the pilot stage so that it can be continued and expanded in the next Plan period. The Scheme will focus on creating Kishori Samoohs, starting non- nutrition interventions, establishing convergence with various departments and create monitoring and supervision committees for the same. As the efficacy of all these initiatives would depend on creating widespread awareness in the States regarding the Scheme, I urge all of you to ensure that information, about the importance of these interventions and the services provided for in the Scheme, is spread to all stakeholders especially the larger community in the pilot districts. We have hope that Sabala will create generations of empowered young women who will transform their own lives and better the existence of the communities they live in.

It also gives me immense satisfaction to tell you that the ‘Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana’ (IGMSY) will also be launched soon. It is a pioneering effort of conditional cash transfer at a scale not envisaged earlier. It is, as many of you must be well aware already, a scheme that provides part compensation of wage losses to pregnant working women and thereby aims to help them to take adequate rest and look after the health and nutrition status of both their infant and their own. The scheme is to be implemented in 52 districts shortly and like SABALA, its expansion would depend on quality of implementation at the pilot stage. Through this Scheme, pregnant and lactating women would be provided cash benefits of Rs.4,000/- each in three phases, starting from the end of the 2nd trimester, upto 6 months and after delivery, dependent on certain conditions, which we sincerely hope would foster health seeking behavior amongst them. I cannot emphasise enough that expansion of these services would depend on the success of the pilot. We are looking towards all the State Governments/UT Administrations to provide full support so that these benefits can be made universal at the earliest. I am sure you will appreciate that both these schemes will combine with the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) to tackle the vicious cycle of intergenerational malnutrition across age groups, through a continuum of services. It is essential therefore that these Schemes deliver and thereby serve the purpose for which they have been conceived.

Tremendous progress has been made towards framing a law that would ensure gender equality and safety for women at the workplace. We will soon have legislation for “Protection of Women from Sexual harassment at the Workplace” in place. The EFC has cleared the Scheme for financial and support services to victims of rape” – a scheme for restorative justice. It is expected to be notified soon. We are taking all these steps to move towards creating a gender just society.

As you all know, the ICDS is one of the worlds’ largest and most unique programmes for Early Childhood Care and also education. The 3rd phase of expansion has resulted in more than 12.14 lakh operational Anganwadi Centres through 6575 Projects.

However, I must share my concern with you regarding the quality of services. With all the resources available to us, it is now for us to take the Scheme to the next level, by ensuring that the services, actually reach the targeted beneficiaries; the delivering of SNP is timely and uninterrupted and that there is no compromise with quality. We should see the challenges as an inspiration for better implementation of the Scheme. I have expressed the concerns of the Ministry, about quality and regularity of services, to many of the States individually. I urge you to share the difficulties being faced freely so that solutions can be thought of.

While the Ministry of Women and Child Development is deeply committed to the well being and protection of the over 4400 lakh children in our country, we realize that we cannot put a protection system in place without proactive participation of the State Governments/UT Administrations. Once implemented in its true spirit, the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) which gives financial and technical assistance to State Governments, to set up structures for provision of quality services for children in difficult circumstances, would ensure that such children are safe and secure in this country. 28 States have signed MOUs till date with GOI to access funds under the Scheme. I urge upon all the remaining States/UTs to do it and to those who have signed to submit their proposal in time. Twelve financial proposals have been received for the current year for release of grants. I urge all other States to expedite their proposals.

Besides, we will be reviewing the implementation of the ‘Protection of Women from Domestic Violence, Act’. Any violence against women is reprehensible. There cannot be a more heinous crime than violence at home which destroys both the woman and the family. All the State Governments have appointed Protection Officers and there are 6560 Protection Officers in position today. However, in States where Social Welfare Officers, CDPOs etc. have been given additional charge of being Protection Officer, independent Protection Officers with adequate infrastructural support, may be appointed at the earliest. They will be able to discharge their responsibilities under the Act effectively only then. Alongside the States may notify service providers and medical facilities under this Act, without further delay.

Increased employment opportunities and Government initiatives on education, have led to an increase of women in the work force. Nevertheless, they continue to fulfill dual responsibilities – that of the bread winner and home-maker. The Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme (RGNCS) for children of working mothers provides day care services primarily to children of mothers working in the unorganized sector. However the reach of the service is still limited. This leads to either children being left with inadequate care while their mothers are at work, or women avoiding gainful employment to look after their children at home. Moreover, recent reviews have highlighted the inadequacy of the procedures for assessment of demand, selection of NGOs and workers and monitoring, as these are mostly internally driven. A Committee to suggest improvements in the Scheme has recommended increased involvement of the State Governments in the implementation of the scheme to address these issues. States had accordingly been requested to carry out a demand survey and conduct inspection of existing crèches. We are still awaiting a response from all of you.

We are here today to share our concerns and to also see how we can move forward. I would urge all of you to please share your information and concerns regarding all other issues (such as foeticide and Child Marriage) and interventions (Swadhar, Step and Ujwala Scheme) in your State, so that we can together think of solutions to the challenges being faced.

Let us all open our hearts and minds and realize the magnitude of the responsibility placed on each one of us. I wish you all the best for the discussions to follow and look towards all of you to make our common dream of an India where even the most vulnerable and voiceless are holders of rights and realize their aspirations and dreams, a reality. ”

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